Council of Cardinal Advisers
The Council of Cardinal Advisers, formally the Council of Cardinals, is a group of nine Catholic cardinals appointed by Pope Francis to serve as his advisers. Announced 13 April 2013 - one month after his election - it was formally established 28 September the same year.
Leadership and membership
The Council consists of 9 Cardinals plus Marcello Semeraro, who is a Bishop rather than a Cardinal, and who serves as Secretary for the group.
- Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, SDB, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa (coordinator)
- Giuseppe Bertello, President of the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State
- Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa, Archbishop-Emeritus of Santiago de Chile
- Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay
- Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising
- Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, Archbishop of Kinshasa
- Seán Patrick O'Malley OFM Cap, Archbishop of Boston
- George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy
- Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State
The group is coordinated by Cardinal Maradiaga. The group's secretary is Marcello Semeraro, Bishop of Albano. Pope Francis named Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, the ninth member of the Council of Cardinal Advisers in July 2014.
The group of nine cardinals have a broad remit "to advise him in the government of the universal church and to study a plan for revising the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia, Pastor Bonus." Said to have been inspired by "a suggestion that emerged during the General Congregations preceding the Conclave", as relayed in the move's formal notice.
The council had its first meeting on 1–3 October. In a statement released after the close of the meeting, the intention of the cardinals is to emphasise the nature of the service on the part of the Curia and the universal and local church "in terms of subsidiarity, rather than the exercise of centralised power. The intended direction would be to put this into practice in the service of the Church in all her dimensions". Another important theme was the nature and functions of the Secretariat of State, which "should be the secretariat of the Pope; the word State should not give rise to doubt. This body serves the Pope in the governance of the universal Church". The Council will address the matter of relations between the heads of the dicasteries and the Pope, and co-ordination between the various bodies. "In this context, mention was made of the role of a 'Moderator Curiae' (Moderator of the Curia), and the functions of such a figure. The issue was touched upon but no decision has been made as to whether it will form part of the new constitution; however, it is in fact one of the hypotheses suggested by the Council".
The council had its second meeting from 3–5 December, discussing the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, entering fully into their in-depth task, not limited to retouches or minor improvements. The revision of Pastor Bonus is substantial, to the extent that it may be considered as a new constitution for the Curia.
The third meeting was held from 17–19 February 2014, where matters regarding the economic and administrative sectors were considered, shortly before the consistory for the creation of new cardinals and the meeting of the Synod council. In a press release it was noted that "Archbishop Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State and future cardinal, was and will continue to be present".
For the morning of 17 February, the representatives of the Commission for Reference on the Organisation of the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See (COSEA) with three members of the Commission were present, Josef F.X. Zahra, the secretary Msgr. Lucio Vallejo Balda and Joachim Messemer. The work carried out during the eight months since the creation of this body was presented with no decisions taken. On 18 February, the Commission for Reference on the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR) was heard. On 19 February the Council continued without Pope Francis who held his usual general audience. The cardinals of the so-called "Council of Fifteen" instituted by John Paul II and responsible for the general consolidated financial statement of the Holy See and the Governorate of Vatican City State met with the Council.
During the meeting from 28 to 30 April, Cardinal Parolinas participated regularly with the Council. The Council heard a report from the president of the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organisation of the Economic-Administrative Structures of the Holy See (COSEA), Joseph F.X. Zahra, in relation to some of the areas of activity within its remit. Following its review in previous Meetings of the Congregations of the Roman Curia, the Council is now focusing on the Pontifical Councils, first in terms of general considerations, followed by an individual appraisal of each one. The Council is expected to complete a first report of its considerations regarding the Pontifical Councils during this Meeting.
During their meetings from 1–4 July Pope Francis was present and said that he would participate fully like the other members of the Council. Cardinal Bertello presented matters relating to the Governorate, and Cardinal Parolin made a presentation relating to the Secretariat of State. The issue of the structure of the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR) was discussed in depth. The meetings, held in two sessions, were also attended by Cardinal Parolin and members of the Supervisory Commission of Cardinals present in Rome: Cardinals Santos Abril y Castelló, Thomas Collins and Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran. During these meetings the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family were studied in particular depth, especially in terms of the contributions and roles that should be assumed by laypeople, married couples and women. Decisions were not made, but more detailed proposals were offered for subsequent insertion into the overall framework of the new configuration of the Curia. Other themes included the nunciatures and the procedures for the appointment of bishops. The Vatican described the overall tone of the meetings as "free, frank and friendly".
During the course of the meetings from 15–17 September the Cardinals had previously worked by examining all the Congregations and Pontifical Councils, but they had also assigned a significant amount of time to hearing the referring Commissions on economic and organisational questions (COSEA and CRIOR) and on matters pertaining to the economic Dicasteries. Work in this area is considered complete. In this meeting the Council resumed work on the other Dicasteries. In the meantime, several contributions had been prepared by various members of the Council on the different issues within their sphere of competence, which were proposed or presented to the Council. During these days, the Council focused on two principal difficult issues. The first includes the themes of the laity and the family. It is a very broad area, encompassing many issues, including for instance the role of women in society and in the Church, youth, childhood, or matters related to lay associations and movements, and so on. The second comprises themes linked to justice and peace, charity, migrants and refugees, health, and the protection of life and ecology, especially human ecology. The Council of Cardinals, as we are aware, does not make decisions, but formulates proposals for the Pope, who certainly intends to consult in further depth. In order to speed up this new phase in the work of the Council, the coordinator, Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, S.D.B., has prepared an overall plan to facilitate the organisation of the contributions and reflections already offered during the previous meetings and the integration of new ones.
During the seventh meeting held from 9–11 December. The meetings focused on three themes: the reform of the Curia, the composition of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and the reorganisation of the economic organs of the Holy See. As usual, Pope Francis participated in all meetings aside from the Wednesday morning session, due to his weekly general audience. With regard to reform of the Roman Curia, the Cardinals also addressed the specific question of the reorganisation of the Pontifical Councils that work in relation to the laity, the family, justice, peace and charity. No formal decisions were taken. The Commission for the Protection of Minors, which has eight members and a secretary, is to be enlarged with representatives from various ecclesial and cultural contexts around the world, reaching a total of around eighteen members. The candidates had been selected and their availability to participate was in the process of being verified. From 6 to 8 February 2015 the Commission plans to hold its plenary session and it is expected that all members will be confirmed by that date. Professor Joseph Zahra, the lay deputy coordinator of the Council for the Economy, reported to the Cardinals on the reorganisation of the economic dicasteries.
The eighth meeting was held from 9 to 11 February 2015. During the ninth meeting from 13 to 15 April the Council dedicated the majority its work regarding reform of the Roman Curia to two aspects: reflections on the methodologies to be followed for work during 2015 and 2016 in order to be able to effectively accomplish the task of preparing the new Constitution, and a rereading of the interventions by the Cardinals in relation to reform of the Curia made during the recent Consistory (there were over sixty interventions on this theme with useful indications and cues, both for the prologue of the constitution and for specific aspects of reform). The orientation towards the constitution of two dicasteries – one competent in fields of charity, justice and peace, the other regarding the laity, families and life – would appear to be confirmed. The Council also focused on the issue of the reorganisation of Vatican media, following the submission of the final report of the Commission presided over by Lord Patten. It is expected that the Pope will constitute a Commission to consider how the recommendations of the report can be put into practice. This body will also include members of the Patten Commission, to ensure continuity. Cardinal O'Malley, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, under the auspices of the same Commission, has proposed that the Pope and the Council consider the theme of "Accountability" with regard to the protection of minors, in order to establish appropriate procedures and methods for evaluating and judging cases of "abuse of office" in this area, especially on the part of persons holding responsibility within the Church.
Acting on their advice, Pope Francis in April 2015 established a Commission for the Reform of the Vatican's Communications Media.
At their tenth meeting from 8–10 June at which Cardinal Mosengwo Pasinya was unable to attend, the first day was dedicated largely to the examination of the draft Preamble of the new Constitution. With regard to financial and economic reform, Cardinal Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, presented a report with updated information on the financial reforms. He mentioned the appointment of the new Auditor General, the approval of the new Statute for Pension Funds and the completion of the list of bodies subject to the control and supervision of the Council for the Economy, in accordance with its Statutes. He also referred to three new initiatives of the Council for the Economy, constituting three working groups: one for the analysis of income and investments; one for human resources management, and a third for the study of the existing IT systems, their compatibility and their efficiency. He concluded by reporting on the progress of the various current activities of the Secretariat for the Economy.
In the afternoon session of 8 June, the Council received a report from Cardinal O'Malley, with a proposal for the Pope regarding allegations of the abuse of office by a bishop connected to the abuse of minors, originally prepared by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Cardinal O'Malley’s report also included a proposal regarding allegations of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by clergy. For each proposal, the report indicated the general terms which define it, issues relating to procedure and to the competent Tribunal, as well as the advantages of the proposal compared with other possible solutions. The five specific proposals made to the Pope are firstly, because the competence to receive and investigate complaints of the episcopal abuse of office belongs to the Congregations for Bishops, Evangelisation of Peoples, or Oriental Churches, there is the duty to report all complaints to the appropriate Congregation; the Pope mandate the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to judge bishops with regard to crimes of the abuse of office when connected to the abuse of minors; the Pope authorise the establishment of a new Judicial Section in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and appointment of stable personnel to undertake service in the Tribunal. The implementation of this decision would follow consultation with the prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; the Pope appoint a secretary to assist the prefect with the Tribunal. The secretary will be responsible for the new Judicial Section and the personnel of the section will also be available to the prefect for penal processes regarding the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by clergy. This appointment will also follow the consultation with the prefect of the Congregation; the Pope establish a five-year period for further development of these proposals and for completing a formal evaluation of their effectiveness.
The Council agreed unanimously on these proposals and resolved that they be submitted to the Pope, who approved the proposals and authorised the provision of sufficient resources for this purpose. In the morning of 9 June the Council of Cardinals heard a report given by Msgr. Dario Vigano, director of the Vatican Television Centre and president of the Commission for Vatican communications instituted by Pope Francis on 23 April 2015 (made public on 30 April), and expressed its unanimous approval of the feasibility study conducted by the same Commission. Starting from the analyses and reports of McKinsey and the previous commissions (COSEA and the Vatican Media Commission chaired by Lord Patten), the current Commission presented a plan for reform to be implemented over a four-year period, ensuring the protection of staff and a gradual integration of institutions. The constitution of the dicastery will be drafted, and the necessary appointments made during the coming months to enable the process to be initiated. The Commission is currently continuing its work, which has yet to be completed. On 10 June, the Council heard a communique from Fr. Michael Czerny of the Pontifical Council "Justice and Peace" regarding the Pope's new encyclical and the preparation for its publication.
The meeting that took place from 14–16 September discussed “The proposal for a new Congregation, provisionally entitled “Laity, Family and Life”, was again taken into consideration”, said Fr. Lombardi. “In this regard Dionigi Cardinal Tettamanzi, designated by the Pope in recent months to prepare a study on the feasibility of the project, was heard. At the end of their reflections the Council presented to the Pope a proposal orientated towards the implementation of the project. Consideration of the proposal for a new Congregation dedicated to “Charity, Justice and Peace” was resumed and further reflections were made without yet reaching, however, a conclusive proposal by the Council.
The meetings discussed the appointment of new bishops, or more specifically on the qualities and requisites for candidates in view of the needs of today’s world, and on the related issue of information gathering. Naturally the theme will need to be explored further and developed in collaboration with the competent Dicasteries concerned. The Prefect of the Secretariat for Communications reported to the Council on the first steps taken so far and in particular on the appointment of a group to draw up the Statutes for the new Dicastery. The working group has been constituted and has already commenced activity. The regulations will subsequently be drafted and issued. The theme proposed during the last session of the Council regarding issues linked to the abuse of minors was again taken into consideration. The matter of how to implement proposals was explored in further depth, especially with regard to the possibility of accelerating the resolution of the many cases still pending. Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga was absent for health reasons.
During the meeting on 10 to 12 December 2015 the Pope developed extensively the theme of "collegiality", but also pointed out "the need to proceed with a healthy 'decentralization'." The Council returned to work on two new departments, which had previously been discussed on numerous occasions. The Department dedicated to "Laity and family life" – the establishment of which Pope Francis announced during the Synod (October 22) - was the subject of a detailed proposal by the Council to the Holy Father. The proposal is now awaiting the final decision of the Holy Father. The Department dedicated to "Justice, Peace and Migration" was subject to further considerations, in anticipation of creating the final proposal, which will then be given to the Pope. The Council heard two reports on the reform of the economic structures of the Vatican, which were given by Cardinal Marx, Co-ordinator of the Council of Economy, and Cardinal George Pell, prefect for the Secretariat of Economy. The two Cardinals reported on the activities and achievements of the two institutions. In the course of his presentation, Cardinal Marx discussed the choice of an external auditor for the consolidated financial statements of the Vatican, PricewaterhouseCoopers. Cardinal Pell gave information about the establishment of a working group to reflect on the future of the economic issues of the Holy See and the Vatican City State, including its present state, and the control of expenditure and revenue.
The Council with Pope Francis for a day and a half, Monday 8 February, morning and afternoon, and Tuesday 9 in the morning. Cardinal Gracias, was absent for health reasons. His absence was expected since the month of December, as he was expected to undergo a previously scheduled surgical operation. As already expected at the end of the previous meeting, the first session consisted of a close examination of the Holy Father's discourse on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Synod of Bishops (17 October). This discourse, which develops extensively the theme of "synodality", noting at the same time "the need to promote a sound decentralisation", constitutes an important point of reference for the work of reforming the Curia. This was followed by a "final" reading of the proposals of the Council regarding the two new Dicasteries, mentioned previously: "Laity, family and life", and "Justice, peace, migration". The proposals were finalised and submitted to the Holy Father for his decisions. Cardinal O'Malley, reported on the activities of the Commission for the Protection of Minors. The legal and disciplinary issues that fall under the jurisdiction of other Dicasteries of the Curia will need to be examined in further detail. Cardinal Pell, reported on the status and implementation of reforms in the economic field. The cardinals received documentation on the so-called "vademecum" prepared by the Tribunal of the Roman Rota for the implementation of reform on canonical procedures for the declaration of nullity of marriage.
Meetings were held between the 11–13 April, with the absence of Cardinal Gracias, for health reasons. Apart from the Wednesday morning session, which took place during the customary General Audience, Pope Francis himself participated in all of the meetings of the Council. In a press briefing on the meetings, Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, said Cardinals’ discussion focused largely on final considerations concerning the various Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, in view of a new Apostolic Constitution. In particular, the Cardinals re-read, and entrusted to the Holy Father, several texts relating to the proposal to create to new Dicasteries, dedicated to “Laity, Family, and Life” and to “Justice, Peace, and Migration.” Father Lombardi said the Cardinals also took up several other topics in particular, the Council considered criteria for gathering information for the nomination of new bishops, in light of their identity and pastoral mission. They also discussed the significance and role of Nuncios. Additionally, the Council heard from two of their own members. Cardinal George Pell updated his colleagues on the work of the Secretariat for the Economy, while Cardinal Sean O’Malley discussed the activities of the Pontifical Council for the Protection of Minors. The final day of the Council’s work, Father Lombardi said, was dedicated to organizing the results of the foregoing discussion, in order to craft a comprehensive proposal from the Council to the Pope, in view of a new Constitution for the Roman Curia.
The Council met from 6–8 June, a large part of the consultations was dedicated to discussing the reforms regarding the Secretariat of State, the Congregations for Catholic Education, for Oriental Churches, for the Clergy and for Bishops, as well as the Pontifical Councils for Culture, for Christian Unity and for Interreligious Dialogue. The results of previous consultations regarding the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith, for Worship and the Sacraments, for the Causes of Saints and for Consecrated Life, as well as the new Charity, Justice and Peace office, have been handed over to Pope Francis for his deliberations. Fr Lombardi said that the reforms were focused on the criteria of simplifying and harmonizing the work of the different offices, as well as exploring ways of decentralizing tasks to the different bishops conferences. Finally he noted that Cardinal Marx and Cardinal Pell discussed questions relating to the Council and the Secretariat for the Economy, while Mgr Dario Vigano reported on the continuing reform of the Vatican media offices, especially the process of integrating Vatican Radio and the Vatican Television Centre which is taking place this year.
There will be meetings of the Council in 2016 on two more occasions on 12–14 September and 12–14 December.
From 13–15 February the Council of Cardinals met with the Holy Father during three days. All the members of the Council were present.
Pope Francis was absent during the second part of the session on Monday morning because of the “ad Limina Apostolorum” of the bishops of Costa Rica; and during the morning session of Wednesday February 15 because of the General Audience. He will be present to the session number 105 planned for this evening.
On February 13, after the first consultation, the Cardinals, through the Press Office of the Holy See, released the following declaration:
“The Council of Cardinals initiated today its 18th working session.
The working sessions took place from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. and were dedicated to further consideration of the different Dicasteries of the Curia: particularly, have continued the discussions about the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (Propaganda Fide); the Congregation for the Oriental Churches; and the Pontifical Council for the Interreligious Dialogue.
The Cardinals began to examine the “Diaconate of Justice”, and a considerable time was dedicated to the Tribunals: Apostolic Penitentiary, Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and Tribunal of the Roman Rota. The Council has also studied, during these day, the process for the selection of candidates to the Episcopate.
Cardinal George Pell spoke about the work of the Secretariat for the Economy, entrusted to him, for the full implementation of the economic reform requested by the Holy Father, with particular attention to the activities of personnel training and human resources. The Prefect of the Secretariat for Communications, Dario Edoardo Viganò, presented the current state of the reform of the communications of the Holy See, after the unification of the Vatican Radio and the Vatican Television Center in the Dicastery entrusted to him. Working sessions were held with the Secretariat of State, the Secretariat for the Economy, Apsa and the Office of Labour to accompany this new phase of the reform. In addition, the plan to reestructure the radio frequency and the new policy for the world of social networks, was presented. Finally, the group reflected on the project to start the reform of the Vatican Publishing House.
The nineteenth meeting of the Council met with the Holy Father for three days: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, 24-26 April. The working sessions took place in the mornings from 9-12:30 and in the afternoons from 16:30-19:00. The sessions were dedicated to further considerations on the various dicasteries of the Curia; in particular, there were continued discussions concerning the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation. The Cardinals also considered texts to propose to the Holy Father regarding the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue; the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts; and three tribunals: the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Apostolic Signatura, and the Roman Rota. During the meetings, the Council also studied the selection and formation of the personnel in the service of the Holy See, both clerics and members of the lay faithful. Officials and superiors from the Secretariat of State, from the Council for the Economy, and from the Labour Office of the Apostolic See took part in the discussions. Another important theme treated by the Council was the relationship between the Episcopal Conferences and the Roman Curia. Cardinal Pell gave an update on the work of the Secretariat for the Economy, with special attention to the review of the budget for the current year. Cardinal O’Malley updated the Council on the work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of minors, focussing especially on the programme of global education, the last plenary assembly, and the visits to various dicasteries.
The Council of Cardinals met with the Holy Father for three days: Monday 12, Tuesday 13 and Wednesday 14 June. All members of the Council were present apart from Cardinal O’Malley. The sessions were dedicated to further consideration of the ways in which the Roman Curia can better serve the local Churches. For example, a larger consultation board made up also of members from consecrated life and the laity, for candidates proposed for appointment as bishop. Among other proposals, the possibility of transferring some functions from the Roman Dicasteries to the local bishops or episcopal councils, in a spirit of healthy decentralisation. For example, the transfer of the Dicastery for the Clergy to the Episcopal Conference for examination and authorisation for: the priestly ordination of an unmarried permanent deacon; the passage to new marriage for a widowed permanent deacon; the request for priestly ordination by a widowed permanent deacon. The Council gave further consideration to various Dicasteries of the Curia, in particular the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. The Council studied and reread texts proposed for submission to the Holy Father regarding the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue; the Dicastery for the Oriental Churches; the Dicastery for Legislative Texts; and the three tribunals. Cardinal Pell provided an update on the work of the Secretariat for the Economy, of which he is the prefect. Particular attention was paid to the steps ahead made in the process of planning of economic resources and in monitoring financial plans for the first trimester of 2017 which have substantially confirmed, with few exceptions, the budget data. Shortly the budget process will begin for 2018, and the monitoring for the second trimester of 2017. The prefect of the Secretariat for Communications, Msgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò, presented a report on the state of the reform of the communication system of the Holy See; he illustrated the economic and management progress of the SPC, demonstrating positive results. He then explained the projects in the realization phase of the new communication system, in accordance with the Holy Father’s recent address on the occasion of the Dicastery’s first Plenary.
The next meeting of the Council of Cardinals will take place on 11, 12 and 14 September 2017.
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